Professor Beach is credited with the following, as a result of work with his students, post-doctoral fellows and, very often, collaboration with other laboratories.
With Paul Nurse he developed techniques for genetic transformation of fission yeast and went on to show that the fission yeast Cdc2 gene is the functional equivalent of the budding yeast Cdc28 gene.
Thereafter he discovered cyclins in fission yeast and demonstrated in collaboration with John Newport, that the Cdc2 protein is a component of the then elusive Mitosis Promoting Factor. In collaboration with Joan Rudermann he demonstrated that the Cdc2 and cyclin proteins physically associate to produce an active protein kinase that comprised the mitosis promoting factor. Thereafter he discovered the human cyclin D1 gene that acts in the G1 phase of the cell cycle and also the p16 INK4A tumour suppressor protein that acts as a cyclin D-CDK4 inhibitor.
This work brought together strands of cell cycle research, comprising classical genetics, biochemistry and cell biology, into a molecular picture that is now outlined in every textbook on the subject.
Professor Beach has a longstanding interest in mechanism of cell cycle control and its disregulation in cancer. Professor Beach discovered the relationship between cyclins and cyclin dependent kinases discovered the tumour suppressor genes p21 and p16 and more recently has focused on the problem of cellular life span control, which is an extension of his work of cell cycle regulation. Professor Beach is a Fellow of the Royal Society.
David Beach's group is focused on the molecular pathways that regulate the proliferation and fate determination of human and other mammalian cells in particular, the mechanisms of cell cycle control and cellular senescence. Further areas of investigation concern the genetic mechanisms by which normally proliferating cells become oncogenically transformed when regulation of pathways affecting cellular senescence, anchorage dependence, motility and angiogenic activation become altered. The group is also interested in the biology of stem cells: by studying the unusual cell cycle regulatory mechanisms of both embryonic and adult stem cells, they will gain an understanding of how growth potential becomes restricted during normal development and will define the role of adult stems cells in the development and maintenance of tissues and organs.
He is the holder of the Bristol Meyers Squibb Award for Cancer Biology.